John Henry Newman.

On the scope & nature of university education online

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Philosophy or, in an extended sense of the word,
Science ; for whatever claims Knowledge has to be
considered as a good, these it has in a higher degree
when it is viewed not vaguely, not popularly, but pre-
cisely and transcendently as Philosophy. Knowledge,
I say, is then especially liberal, or sufficient for
itself, apart from every external and ulterior object,
when and so far as it is philosophical, and this I
proceed to show.

Now bear with me, gentlemen, if what I am about
to say, has at first sight a fanciful appearance. Philo-


sophy, then, or Science, is related to Knowledge in
this way : Knowledge is called by the name of
Science or Philosophy, when it is acted upon, in-
formed, or if I may use a strong figure, impregnated
by Reason. Reason is the principle of that_intrinsic
fecundity of Knowledge, which, to those who possess
it, is its especial value, and which dispenses with the
necessity of their looking abroad for any end to rest
upon external to itself. Knowledge, indeed, when
thus exalted into a scientific form, is also power ; not
only is it excellent in itself, but whatever such ex-
cellence may be, it is something more, it has a result
beyond itself. Doubtless ; but that is a further con-
sideration, with which I am not concerned. I only
say that, prior to its being a power, it is a good ; that
it is, not only an instrument, but an end. I know well
it may resolve itself into an art, and terminate in a /
mechanical process, and in tangible fruit ; but it also >
may fall back upon Reason, and resolve itself into^
Philosophy. In one case it is called Useful Know-
ledge, in the other Liberal. The same person may
cultivate it in both ways at once ; but this again is
a matter foreign to my subject ; here I do but say
that there are two ways of using Knowledge, and in
matter of fact those who use it in one way are not
likely to use it in the other, or at least in a very limited
measure. You see, then, gentlemen, here are two
methods of Education ; the one aspires to be philoso-
phical, the other to be mechanical ; the one rises
towards ideas, the other is exhausted upon what is
particular and external. Let me not be thought to
deny the necessity, or to decry the benefit, of such
attention to what is particular and practical, the useful
or mechanical arts ; life could not go on without


them ; we owe our daily welfare to them ; their
exercise is the duty of the many, and we owe to~
the many a debt of gratitude for fulfilling it. I )
only say that Knowledge, in proportion as it tends
, more and more to be particular, ceases to be Know-
/ ledge. It is a question whether Knowledge can in
^ any proper sense be predicated of the brute creation ;
without pretending to metaphysical exactness of phrase-
ology, which would be unsuitable to an occasion like
this, I say, it seems to me improper to call that passive
sensation, or perception of things, which brutes seem to
possess, by the name of Knowledge. When I speak
of Knowledge, I mean something intellectual, some-
thing which grasps what it perceives through the
senses ; something which takes a view of things ;
which sees more than the senses convey ; which

? reasons upon what it sees, and while it sees; which
invests it with an idea. It expresses itself, not in a
mere enunciation, but by an enthyjrieme : it is of the

/ nature of science from the first," and in this consists its
dignity. The principle of real dignity in Knowledge,
its worth, its desirableness, considered irrespectively of
its results, is this germ within it of a scientific or a
philosophical process. This is how it comes to be an
end in itself; this is why it admits of being called
Liberal. Not to know the relative disposition of
things is the state of slaves or children ; to have
mapped out the Universe is the boast of Philosophy.
Moreover, such knowledge is not a mere extrinsic
or accidental advantage, which is ours to-day and
another's to-morrow, which may be got up from a
book, and easily forgotten again, which we can com-
mand or communicate at our pleasure, which we can
borrow for the occasion, carry about in our hand, and


take into the market ; it is an acquired illumination, it
is a habit, a personal possession, and an inward endow-
ment. And this is the reason, why it- is more correct,
jis well as more usual, to speak of a University as a
^place of education, than of instruction, though, when
knowledge is concerned, instruction would at first sight
have seemed the more appropriate word. We are
instructed, for instance, in manual exercises, in the
fine and useful arts, in trades, and in ways of business ;
for these are methods, which have little or no effect
upon the mind itself, are contained in rules committed
to memory, to tradition, or to use, and bear upon
an end external to themselves. But education is a
higher word ; it implies an action upon our mental
nature, and the formation of a character ; it is some-
thing individual and permanent, and is commonly
spoken of in connection with religion and virtue.
When, then, we speak of the communication of Know-
ledge as being Education, we thereby really imply
that that Knowledge is a state or condition of mind ;
and since cultivation of mind is surely worth seeking
for its own sake, we are thus brought once more to the
conclusion, which the word " Liberal " and the word
" Philosophy " have already suggested, that there is a
Knowledge, which is desirable, though nothing come
of it, as being of itself a treasure, and a sufficient
remuneration of years of labour.

This, then, is the answer which I am prepared to
give to the question with which I opened this Dis-
course. Before going on to speak of the object of the
Church in taking up Philosophy, and the uses to which
she puts it, I am prepared to maintain that Philosophy
is its own end, and, as I conceive, I have now begun
proving it. I am prepared to maintain that there


is a knowledge worth possessing for what it is, and
not merely for what it does ; and what minutes remain
to me to-day I shall devote to the removal of some
portion of the indistinctness and confusion with which
the subject may in some minds be surrounded.

It may be objected then, that, when we profess to
seek Knowledge for some end or other beyond itself,
whatever it be, we speak intelligibly ; but that, what-
ever men may have said, however obstinately the idea
may have kept its ground from age to/ age, still it is
simply unmeaning to say that we seek (Knowledge for
its own sake, and for nothing else ; for that it ever leads
to something beyond itself, which therefore is its end,
and the cause why it is desirable ; moreover, that this
end is twofold, either of this world or of the next ;
that all knowledge is cultivated either for secular
objects or for eternal ; that if it is directed to secular ^
objects, it is called Useful Knowledge, if to eternal^/
Religious or Christian Knowledge ; in consequence^
that if, as I have allowed, this Liberal Knowledge
does not benefit the body or estate, it ought to benefit
the soul ; but if the fact be really so, that it is neither
/-*. physical or a secular good on the one hand, nor ]
/ a moral good on the other, it cannot be a good at all, I

I and is not worth the trouble which is necessary for its/

f acquisition.

And then I may be reminded that the professors of
this Liberal or Philosophical Knowledge have them-
selves, in every age, recognised this exposition of the
matter, and have submitted to the issue in which it
terminates ; for they have ever been attempting to
make men virtuous ; or, if not, at least have assumed
that refinement of mind was virtue, and that they them-
selves were the virtuous portion of mankind. This they
1 06


have professed on the one hand ; and on the other,
they have utterly failed in their professions, so as ever
to make themselves a proverb among men, and a
laughing-stock both to the grave and the dissipated
portion of mankind, in consequence of them. Thus
they have furnished against themselves both the ground
and the means of their own exposure, without any
trouble at all to any one else. In a word, from the \
time that Athens was the University of the world, j
what has Philosophy taught men, but to promise with- /
out practising, and to aspire without attaining ? Whay
has the deep and lofty thought of its disciples ended in
but eloquent words ? Nay, what has its teaching ever
meditated, when it was boldest in its remedies for
human ill, beyond charming us to sleep by its lessons,
that we might feel nothing at all ? like some melodious
air, or rather like those strong and transporting per-
fumes, which at first spread their sweetness over every-
thing they touch, but in a little while do but offend in
proportion as they once pleased us. Did Philosophy
support Cicero under the disfavour of the fickle popu-
lace, or nerve Seneca to oppose an imperial tyrant?
It abandoned Brutus, as he sorrowfully confessed, in
his greatest need, and it forced Cato, as his panegyrist
strangely boasts, into the false position of defying
heaven. How few can be counted among its pro-
fessors, who, like Polemo, were thereby converted
from a profligate course, or like Anaxagoras, thought
the world well lost in exchange for its possession ?
The philosopher in Rasselas taught a superhuman
doctrine, and then succumbed without an effort to a
trial of human affection.

" He discoursed,'* we are told, " with great energy
on the government of the passions. His look was


venerable, his action graceful, his pronunciation clear,
and his diction elegant. He showed, with great
strength of sentiment and variety of illustration, that
human nature is degraded and debased, when the lower
faculties predominate over the higher. He com-
municated the various precepts given, from time to
time, for the conquest of passion, and displayed the
happiness of those who had obtained the important
victory, after which man is no longer the slave of fear,
nor the fool of hope. . . . He enumerated many
examples of heroes immovable by pain or pleasure,
who looked with indifference on those modes or ac-
cidents to which the vulgar give the names of good
and evil."

Rasselas in a few days found the philosopher in a
room half darkened, with his eyes misty, and his face
pale. " Sir/' said he, " you have come at a time
when all human friendship is useless ; what I suffer
cannot be remedied, what I have lost cannot be
supplied. My daughter, my only daughter, from
whose tenderness I expected all the comforts of my
age, died last night of a fever." " Sir," said the
prince, " mortality is an event by which a wise man
can never be surprised ; we know that death is always
near, and it should therefore always be expected. "
" Young man," answered the philosopher, " you speak
like one who has never felt the pangs of separation."
"Have you, then, forgot the precept," said Rasselas,
" \vhich you so powerfully enforced ? . . . consider
that external things are naturally variable, but truth
and reason are always the same." " What comfort,"
said the mourner, " can truth and reason afford me ?
Of what effect are they now, but to tell me that my
daughter will not be restored ? "
1 08


Better, far better, to make no professions, you will
say, than to cheat others with what we are not, and to
scandalise them with what we are. The sensualist, or
the man of the world, at any rate is not the victim of
fine words, but pursues a reality and gains it. The
Philosophy of Utility, you will say^ gentlemen, has
at least done its work ; it aimed low, but it has ful-
frlled~7ts aim. If that man of great intellect whc
has been its Prophet in the conduct of life playe
false to his own professions, he was not bound by(
his philosophy to be true to his friend or faithful in
his trust. Moral virtue was not the line in which he
undertook to instruct men ; and though, as the poet
calls him, he were the " meanest " of mankind, he was
so in what may be called his private capacity, and
without any prejudice to the theory of induction. He
had a right to be so, if he chose, for anything that
the Idols of the den or the theatre had to say to the
contrary. His mission was the increase of physical
enjoyment and social comfort ; l and most wonderfully,
most awfully has he fulfilled his conception and his
design. Almost day by day have we fresh and fresh
shoots, and buds, and blossoms, which are to ripen
into fruit, on that magical tree of Knowledge which
he planted, and to which none of us perhaps, except
the very poor, but owes, if not his present life, at least
his daily food, his health, and general well-being.
He was the divinely provided minister of temporal
benefits to all of us so great, that, whatever I am
forced to think of him as a man, I have not the heart,
from mere gratitude, to speak of him severely. And,

* It will be seen that on the whole I agree with Lord
Macaulay in his Essay on Bacon's Philosophy. I do not
know whether he would agree with me.


in spite of the tendencies of his philosophy, which are,
as we see at this day, to depreciate, or to trample on
Theology, he has himself, in his writings, gone out of
his way, as if with a prophetic misgiving of those
tendencies, to insist on it as the instrument of that
beneficent Father, 1 who, when He came on earth in
visible form, took on Him first and most prominently
the office of assuaging the bodily wounds of human
nature. And truly, like the old mediciner in the tale,
"he sat diligently at his work, and hummed, with
cheerful countenance, a pious song ; " and then in turn
"went out singing into the meadows so gaily, that
those who had seen him from afar might well have
thought it was a youth gathering flowers for his
beloved, instead of an old physician gathering healing
herbs in the morning dew." 2

Alas, that men, in the action of life or in their heart
of hearts, are not what they seem to be in their
moments of excitement, or in their trances or intoxica-
tions of genius so good, so noble, so serene ! Alas,
L that Bacon too 3 in his own way should after all be but
J I the fellow of those heathen philosophers who in their
| | disadvantages had some excuse for their inconsistency,

1 De Augment, iv. 2, vid. Macaulay's Essay; vid. also
" In principio operis ad Deum Patrem, Deum Verbum,
Deum Spiritum,preces fundimus humillimas et ardentissimas,
ut humani generis zrumnarum memores, et peregrinationis
istius vitae, in qua dies paucos et malos terimus, novit suis
eleemosynis 9 per manus nostras, familiam humanam dotare
dignentur. Atque illud insuper supplices rogamus, ne
hi'.mana divinis officiant; neve ex reseratione *vtarum scnsus, et
accensione majore luminis naturalis, aliquid incredulitatis et
noctis, animis nostris erga divina mysteria oboriatur," &c.
Praf. Instaur. Magn.

2 Fouque's " Unknown Patient."

3 Te maris et terras, &c. Hor. Od. i. 28.



and who surprise us rather in what they did say than
in what they did not do ! Alas, that he too, like
Socrates or Seneca, must be stripped of his holy-day
coat, which looks so fair, and should be but a mockery
amid his most majestic gravity of phrase ; and, for all
his vast abilities, should, in the littleness of his own
moral being, but typify the intellectual narrowness of
his school ! However, granting all this, heroism after
all was not his philosophy : I cannot deny he has
abundantly achieved what he proposed. His is simply
a Method whereby bodily discomforts and temporal
wants are to be most effectually removed from the
greatest number ; and already, before it has shown any
signs of exhaustion, the gifts of nature, in their most
artificial shapes and luxurious profusion and diversity,
from all quarters of the earth, are, it is undeniable, by
its means brought even to our doors, and we rejoice in

Useful Knowledge then certainly has done its
work ; and Liberal Knowledge as certainly has not
done its work supposing, that is, as the objectors
assume, its direct end, like Religious Knowledge, y
is to make men better ; but this I will not for an \
instant allow. For all its friends, or its enemies, J
may say, I insist upon it, that it is as real a mistake to /
burden it with virtue or religion as with the mechanical
arts. Its direct Business is not to steel the soul Against
temptation, or to console it in affliction, any more than to
set the loom in motion, or to direct the steam carriage ;
be it ever so much the means or the condition of both
material and moral advancement ; still, taken by and in
itself, it as little mends our hearts as it improves our
temporal circumstances. And if its eulogists claim for
it such a power, they commit the very same kind of


encroachment on a province not their own as the
political economist who should maintain that his science
educated him for casuistry or diplomacy. Knowledge
V is one thing, virtue is another ; good sense is not con-
science, refinement is not humility, nor is largeness and
justness of view faith. Philosophy, however enlight-
ened, however profound, gives no command over the
passions, no influential motives, no vivifying principles.
Liberal Education makes not the Christian, not the
Catholic, but the gentleman. It is well to be a gentle-
/man, it is well to have a cultivated intellect, a delicate
/ taste, a candid, equitable, dispassionate mind, a noble
: and courteous bearing in the conduct of life ; these
are the con-natural qualities of a large knowledge ; they
are the objects of a University; I am advocating, I
shall illustrate and insist upon them ; but still, I repeat,
they are no guarantee for sanctity or even for con-
scientiousness, they may attach to the man of the
world, to the profligate, to the heartless pleasant,
alas, and attractive as he shows when decked out in
them. Taken by themselves, they do but seem to be
what they are not ; they look like virtue at a distance,
but they are detected by close observers, and on the
long run ; and hence it is that they are popularly
accused of pretence and hypocrisy, not, I repeat, from
their own fault, but because their professors and their
admirers persist in taking them for what they are not,
and are officious in arrogating for them a praise to
which they have no claim. Quarry the granite rock\
with razors, or moor the vessel with a thread of silk ; 1
then may you hope with such keen and delicate instru- 1
ments as human knowledge and human reason to con-
tend against these giants, the passion and the pride of



Surely we are not driven to theories of this kind in
order to vindicate the value and dignity of Liberal
Knowledge. Surely the real grounds on which its
pretensions rest are not so very subtle or abstruse, so
very strange or improbable. Surely it is very intel-
ligible to say, and that is what I say here, that Liberal
Education, viewed in itself, is simply the cultivation of
the intellect as such, and its object is nothing more or
less than intellectual excellence. Every thing has its
own perfection, be it higher or lower in the scale of
things ; and the perfection of one is not the perfection
of another. Things animate, inanimate, visible, in-
visible, all are good in their kind, and have a lest of
themselves, which is an object of pursuit. Why do
you take such pains with your garden or your park ?
You see to your walks and turf and shrubberies ; to
your trees and drives ; not as if you meant to make an
orchard of the one, or corn or pasture land of the
other, but because there is a special beauty in all that
is goodly in wood, water, plain, and slope, brought
all together by art into one shape, and grouped into
I one whole. Your cities are beautiful, your palaces,
your public buildings, your territorial mansions, your
churches ; and their beauty leads to nothing beyond
itself. There is a physical beauty and a moral : there
is a beauty of person, there is a beauty of our moral
beinjg^ which is natural virtue ; and in like manner
there is a~Eeauty, there is a perfection, of the intellect.
There is an ideal perfection in these various subject-
matters, towards which individual instances are seen to
rise, and which are the standards for all instances
whatever. The Greek divinities and demigods, as
the statuary has moulded them, with their symmetry
of figure, and their high forehead and their regular
113 H


features, are the perfection of physical beauty. The
heroes, of whom history tells, Alexander, or Caesar, or
Scipio, or Saladin, are the representatives of that mag-
nanimity or self-mastery which is the greatness of
human nature. Christianity too has its heroes, and in
the supernatural order, and we call them Saints. JThe
artist puts before him beauty of feature and form; the
poet, beauty of mind; the preacher, the beauty of
grace : then intellect too, I repeat, has its beauty,
and it has those who aim at it. To open the mind,
to correct it, to refine it, to enable it to know, and to
digest, master, rule, and use its knowledge, to giye it
power over its own faculties, application, flexibility,
method, critical exactness, sagacity, resource, address,
eloquent expression, is an object as intelligible (for
here we are inquiring, not what the object of a. Liberal
Education is worth, nor what use the Church makes of
it, but what it is in itself), I say, an object as intel-
ligible as the cultivation of virtue, while, at the same
time, it is absolutely distinct from it.

This indeed is but a temporal object, and a transi-
tory possession : but so are other things in themselves
which we make much of and pursue. The moralist
will tell us that man, in all his functions, is but a flower
which blossoms and fades, except so far as a higher
principle breathes upon him, and makes him and what
he is immortal. Body and mind are carried on into an
eternal state of being by the gifts of Divine Muni-
ficence ; but at first they do but fail in a failing world ;
and if the powers of intellect decay, the powers of the
body have decayed before them, and, as an Hospital or
an Almshouse, though its end be ephemeral, may be
sanctified to the service of religion, so surely may a
University, even were it nothing more than I have as


_ _ _

yet described it. We attain to heaven by using thi |i
world well, though it is to pass away ; we perfect our '*
nature, not by undoing it, but by adding to it what is
more than nature, and directing it towards aims higher

than its own.



were well if the English, like the Greek
language, possessed some definite word to
express, simply and generally, intellectual pro-
ficiency or perfection, such as " health," as used with
reference to the animal frame, and " virtue," with re-
ference to our moral nature. I am not able to find
such a term; talent, ability, genius, belong distinctly
to the raw material, which is the subject-matter, not
to that excellence which is the result of exercise and
training. When we turn, indeed, to the particular kinds
of intellectual perfection, words are forthcoming for
our purpose, as, for instance, judgment, taste, and
skill ; yet even these belong, for the most part, to
powers or habits bearing upon practice or upon art, and
not to any perfect condition of the intellect, considered
in itself. Wisdom, again, which is a more compre-
hensive word than any other, certainly has a direct
relation to conduct and to human life. Knowledge,
indeed, and Science express purely intellectual ideas,/
but still not a state or habit of the intellect; for
knowledge, in its ordinary sense, is but one of its cir-
cumstances, denoting a possession or a faculty ; and
science has been appropriated to the subject-matter of
the intellect, instead of belonging at present, as it ought


to do, to the intellect itself. The consequence is that, j
on an occasion like this, many words are necessary, in
order, first, to bring out and convey what surely is no
difficult idea in itself that of the cultivation of the
jntellect as an end ; next, in order to recommend what
Turely isTno unreasonable object ; and lastly, to describe
and make the mind realise the particular perfection in
which that object consists. Every one knows practi-
cally what are the constituents of health or of virtue ;

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Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanOn the scope & nature of university education → online text (page 11 of 22)